Overshadowed in the United State by those protesting the death of Freddie Gray caused by apparent police negligence, so-called May Day, or International Workers' Day, demonstrations were seen throughout the world. Harkening back to the days of the Haymarket affair, 10,000 police officers on May 1st moved to suppress those marching in Istanbul, particularly those headed to the infamous Taksim Square. Although the intent of May Day demonstrations is to take a global stand for the rights of workers, this example demonstrates the fight for economic justice is akin to the fight for equal representation and proper governance.
Unfortunately, May Day‘s socialist and communist roots distract people in the capitalist world from the significance of the global effort to embrace worker rights. Despite the historic framing of unions and labor rights movements as socialist and communist endeavors, the truth is that unions and labor negotiations are part of a healthy capitalist system. Market forces can only balance the interests of workers with businesses, if both the workers and the businesses have enough leverage to conduct meaningful negotiations that properly balance those interests. In other words, adequate worker representation is necessary to determine the proper value of labor.
That said, capitalism’s Cold War victory over communism has long been considered a settled matter. Taken for granted, the world’s faith in capitalist principles appeared so concrete to global leaders that war was declared on any form of socialism by the Right and ideas like Free Trade were embraced without question by the Left. The failure to recognize capitalist policies can only work when they properly address and balance the interests of the People has, however, created a great deal of backlash against capitalism. Since the Great Recession, in particular, socialists have seized upon the opportunity to promote their faulted ideology.
As this writer has learned through various conversations, faithful socialists and communists believe the rich are nothing more than thieves and should be killed for their crimes against humanity. On the other hand, the purist capitalists of the world still insist the impoverished should willingly accept their lot in life while they claim people’s lives would be far worse without the capitalist policies they have pushed. What both radical perspectives have failed to do is recognize that capitalist policies can be designed to either enrich or impoverish the many. They have also failed to understand the intellectual distinction between capitalism and socialism is useful, yet the real world depends on public policies that share capitalist and socialist traits.
The sole purpose for embracing capitalist thinking is efficiency. Both capitalism and socialism seek to distribute the resources of a nation. Socialism is a manual approach that empowers the political elite; whereas, capitalism is an automated approach that can either get more resources into the hands of those who will improve the lives of others through innovation or direct more resources to the already wealthy. The benefits of capitalism depend on how the mechanisms of an economy are designed. Conversely, the fault of socialism is its failure to invest in innovation and improved efficiency, i.e. socialism is just about spending, not earning.
“Free market” proponents like Ayn Rand failed to recognize that capitalism must serve the interests of the People in order for it to be useful and acceptable to any given society, because they were so focused on combating the harm socialist policies can do. The downside to socialism is that it gives the government too much economic power; whereas, the downside to capitalism is that it can give the wealthy too much economic power. Because the economy affects every aspect of a person’s life, the consolidation of economic power is the consolidation of power over the People. A lack of power, in turn, leaves individuals lacking in freedom.
In many respects, money is just a measure of how much ownership people have in their society. The more money someone has the more privilege and benefits that individual can derive from society. Where capitalism is supposed to afford people influence, i.e. reward or empower them, based on their contributions to society and socialism, in theory, empowers everyone equally, capitalist policies and socialism governments disempower people when too much of our society’s wealth is controlled by the power elite.
As the distribution of wealth narrows, i.e. income inequality grows, the more disempowered the Peoples of the world become. Due to the nature of money, a lack of distribution translates into a lack of circulation of wealth and resources, i.e. the collapse of the formal economy. When it comes to the narrowing of power and the disempowerment of the many, a similar collapse in the form of civil war and anarchy will eventually threaten the modern world. Under both circumstances, the privileges and benefits of wealth will, of course, be eliminated. Consequently, there is a great incentive for the wealthy and powerful to reverse this trend instead of escalating it for their own immediate gain.
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